I’m nowhere near retirement age, but my husband is, so the subject of Social Security is a frequent topic of conversation. I was recommended this book in a financial advice group I belong to on Facebook and decided to check it out.
Get What’s Yours was originally written in 2015, and then Congress passed a new Social Security act changing most of what was recommended in the book, so it was rewritten. If you are going to read Get What’s Yours, make sure the copyright date is after 2016, when the Social Security laws changed.
“These days there is a fair chance that you will be forced to stop working sooner than you supposed due to a clear-the-decks boss, a hair-trigger economy, or a fickle physiology; that you will, as a consequence, find yourself involuntarily retired with far less savings than you had anticipated; and/or that you will live far longer than you had expected.”
This paragraph resonated with me. That’s the boat we’re in. My husband has been out of work since the end of January 2020 and had no plans to retire as we still have four kids under the age of 18 in the house, and I’m only working part-time (but with some benefits that make it worthwhile to continue to work where I am). Then our investments and the stock market tanked when the Coronavirus hit the U.S. and they are still recovering. But now, with no job on the horizon and a dwindling emergency fund, it looks like my husband may have to retire, but at least he’ll be at Full Retirement Age (FRA) when he does. The book says a lot about taking early retirement at 62 and highly advises against it.
My big beef with Get What’s Yours (besides the continual plugging of one of the author’s appearances on PBS Newshour) is that it seems to be catered to those who were grandfathered in to the new changes in the Social Security plan. Most of the examples are of people who are 62 or 66 in 2016. Well, that doesn’t apply to my husband, age 66 in 2020, and certainly not to me at age 47. So great portions of this book are taken up with all those people who were close to retirement age when Congress changed the rules for Social Security.
Just a few weeks ago, I found out through that financial advise group on Facebook (Facebook is good for some things, it turns out), that when my husband will retire, our children under 18 will be able to receive benefits. This was reiterated in Get What’s Yours. Which is good to know. If we hadn’t known that, do you think the people at Social Security would have offered that information? Probably not. And we would be out a lot of money we could be using for their care and saving for schooling, which is one of the main reasons my husband didn’t want to retire until 70, anyway.
I was most interested in the sections on survivor benefits, as I will most likely outlive my husband (he is, after all, 19 years older than me). I’ve also been out of the workforce for about 15 years raising our kids, and even before kids, I rarely worked full-time for a full year because of college. The book told me what I already knew: survivor’s benefits are half of what my husband’s benefits would be at FRA. My children would get benefits until they reached eighteen, which I knew from my own personal experience of losing my father when I was fourteen. Most likely, my earnings in the next 23 years will not make my own Social Security payments any higher than half of my husband’s.
There’s a lot of talk about applying for benefits but deferring them until you are 70, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. If you stop working, most people would need the Social Security money. So apparently this information is for those who continue to work. Then why apply for benefits if you are not going to use them? And I’m confused, because in the book, it seems you could only defer payments if you were grandfathered in before the 2016 changes.
The authors of Get What’s Yours spend a lot of time on married couples, and those with higher incomes, too. Even in their book, they mention that “The national median wage was $28,851 in 2014.” But they can offer no real life examples of Social Security payouts when you’re living at the poverty level.
There’s also a great swath of information for the divorced and remarried, or the multiple marriages and divorces, which is a reality in the world we live in, but since it didn’t apply to me, I skipped those sections. There’s a lot of repetition in Get What’s Yours, and the authors admit it, because they are trying to drive the points home.
The main advice that is repeated ad nauseum is to wait until 70 to take your Social Security Benefits. Well, that’s a no brainer. Anyone who has ever looked at the Social Security Earnings Statement they used to send out every year (but is now easily accessed online at www.ssa.gov), can see that your payout goes up exponentially between the ages of 66 (or 67 depending on your birth date) and 70. For my husband, it would be an extra $900 a month in benefits! But alas, like I mentioned, that’s probably not in the cards for our family. So, my advice is don’t lose your job when you’re close to retirement age, either.
The authors insist that you do your Social Security signing up in person, because it is more thorough, but because of Coronavirus, you can do your signing up via telephone call to your local branch. My husband had a two-hour phone call, armed with documents like all our birth certificates, social security numbers and marriage license. We needed to mail in our original marriage certificate for verification, and was returned to us within a week.
If you know nothing about how social security benefits works, you will learn a lot with this book. However, since my husband and I had already researched Social Security benefits, I had already learned much of this information prior to reading the book.
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